Book of Numbers - 3
Chris Knepp


Text of Book of Numbers 3

The Book of Numbers

Ch. 21 – Israel Defeats Og and Sihon

“As with Edom and Moab, the Israelites asked permission to pass through the territory of King Sihon, but he refused. When Sihon attacked the Israelites at Jahaz, the Israelites defeated him and captured his land. Later, Moses dispatched troops to capture Jazed, and they turned north and were met by King Og’s forces. They defeated Og’s forces and took control of his land as well.” ESV Study Bible

Ch. 22-24, The Talking Donkey and Balaam’s Oracles

“Alongside the serpent that tempts Eve, the most famous animal in the Bible is the prophet Balaam’s talking donkey, which can see an angel of God clearer than the prophet himself can.”

“Jewish tradition teaches that the non-Hebrew Balaam had the potential to be one of God’s greatest prophets. But rather than utilize this gift, Balaam sells his talents to the highest bidder.” 

“… Jewish tradition teaches that the animal died right after the incident, so that people would not say ‘This is the animal that spoke’ and make it an object of worship.”

Rabbi Joseph Telushkin, “Balaam’s Talking Donkey,” Jewish Literacy

Ch. 22, The Talking Donkey

•       Israel now in plains of Moab beyond the Jordan at Jericho

•       Moabite King Balak scared by defeat of Sihon and Og; summons Balaam, a man with international reputation for blessing and cursing, to defeat Israel by cursing them

•       Balaam turns down first invitation because God refused him permission to go

•       Balak ups his offer; Balaam accepts after God says “Go, but only do what I tell you.”

•       But God knows Balaam is in it for the money ….

Ch. 22, The Talking Donkey

22 God’s anger was kindled because he was going, and the angel of the Lord took his stand in the road as his adversary. Now he was riding on the donkey, and his two servants were with him. 23 The donkey saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with a drawn sword in his hand, so the donkey turned off the road and went into the field, and Balaam struck the donkey, to turn it back onto the road. 24 Then the angel of the Lord stood in a narrow path between the vineyards, with a wall on either side. 25 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it scraped against the wall and scraped Balaam’s foot against the wall, so he struck it again. 26 Then the angel of the Lord went ahead and stood in a narrow place, where there was no way to turn either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, it lay down under Balaam, and Balaam’s anger was kindled, and he struck the donkey with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the mouth of the donkey, and it said to Balaam, “What have I done to you, that you have struck me these three times?” 29 Balaam said to the donkey, “Because you have made a fool of me! I wish I had a sword in my hand! I would kill you right now!” 30 But the donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your donkey, which you have ridden all your life to this day? Have I been in the habit of treating you this way?” And he said, “No.”

 The Book of Numbers

Ch. 22, The Talking Donkey

31 Then the Lord opened the eyes of Balaam, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road, with his drawn sword in his hand, and he bowed down, falling on his face. 32 The angel of the Lord said to him, “Why have you struck your donkey these three times? I have come out as an adversary because your way is perverse before me. 33 The donkey saw me and turned away from me these three times. If it had not turned away from me, surely just now I would have killed you and let it live.” 34 Then Balaam said to the angel of the Lord, “I have sinned, for I did not know that you were standing in the road to oppose me. Now therefore, if it is displeasing to you, I will return home.” 35 The angel of the Lord said to Balaam, “Go with the men, but speak only what I tell you to speak.” So Balaam went on with the officials of Balak.

Ch. 23-24, Balaam’s Oracles

•       Balaam blesses Israel three times

10 Then Balak’s anger was kindled against Balaam, and he struck his hands together. Balak said to Balaam, “I summoned you to curse my enemies, but instead you have blessed them these three times. 11 Now be off with you! Go home! I said, ‘I will reward you richly,’ but the Lord has denied you any reward.” 12 And Balaam said to Balak, “Did I not speak to your messengers whom you sent to me, saying, 13 ‘If Balak should give me his house full of silver and gold, I would not be able to go beyond the word of the Lord, to do either good or bad of my own will; what the Lord says, that is what I will say’? 14 So now, I am going to my people; let me advise you what this people will do to your people in days to come.”

Ch. 23-24, Balaam’s Oracles

•       Balaam’s fourth and final oracle – an oracle against the nations and a messianic prophecy

•       King David and Davidic conquers Moab and Edom

•       King Jesus conquers sin and evil; all nations shall bow to him

17 … a star shall come out of Jacob,
    and a scepter shall rise out of Israel;
it shall crush the foreheads of Moab
    and the heads of all the Shethites.
18 Edom will become a possession,
    Seir a possession of its enemies,
    while Israel does valiantly.
19 One out of Jacob shall rule and destroy the survivors of Ir.”

“a star shall come out of Jacob”

•       In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, magi from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 asking, “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star in the east and have come to pay him homage.” Matthew 2:1-3

•       “It is I, Jesus, who sent my angel to you with this testimony for the churches. I am the root and the descendant of David, the bright morning star.” Revelation 22:16

Ch. 25, Baal Worship at Peor and the Zeal of Phinehas

25 While Israel was staying at Shittim, the people began to have sexual relations with the women of Moab. 2 These invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. 3 Thus Israel yoked itself to the Baal of Peor, and the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel. 4 The Lord said to Moses, “Take all the chiefs of the people and impale them in the sun before the Lord, in order that the fierce anger of the Lord may turn away from Israel.” 5 And Moses said to the judges of Israel, “Each of you shall kill any of your people who have yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor.”

Ch. 25, Baal Worship at Peor and the Zeal of Phinehas

6 Just then one of the Israelites came and brought a Midianite woman into his family, in the sight of Moses and in the sight of the whole congregation of the Israelites, while they were weeping at the entrance of the tent of meeting. 7 When Phinehas son of Eleazar, son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he got up and left the congregation. Taking a spear in his hand, 8 he went after the Israelite man into the tent and pierced the two of them, the Israelite and the woman, through the belly. So the plague was stopped among the Israelites. 9 Nevertheless those who died by the plague were twenty-four thousand.

Warnings from Israel’s History (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)

10 I do not want you to be ignorant, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, 2 and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, 3 and all ate the same spiritual food, 4 and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual rock that followed them, and the rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them, and they were struck down in the wilderness.

6 Now these things occurred as examples for us, so that we might not desire evil as they did. 7 Do not become idolaters as some of them did, as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink, and they rose up to play.” 8 We must not engage in sexual immorality, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. 9 We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did, and were destroyed by serpents. 10 And do not complain, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. 11 These things happened to them to serve as an example, and they were written down to instruct us, on whom the ends of the ages have come.

Numbers Chs. 26-36

Overview of Third Section of Book of Numbers

•       Chapters 26-36 concentrate on positive developments in fortieth year that prepare way for new generation to enter promised land

•       Begins with census of new generation

•       Framed by episodes focusing on inheritance rights of daughters of Zelophehad

•       Oriented towards future occupation of Canaan

Census of the New Generation

26 After the plague the Lord said to Moses and to Eleazar the priest, 2 “Take a census of the whole congregation of the Israelites, from twenty years old and up, by their ancestral houses, everyone in Israel able to go to war.” 3 Moses and Eleazar the priest spoke with them in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, 4 “Take a census of the people, from twenty years old and up,” as the Lord commanded Moses.

•       First census primarily concerned with establishing number of fighting men; second census concerned also with relative size of tribes for purpose of land allotment (26:53-54)

•       Total number of Israelites changed very little (now 601,730 vs. 603,550 previously), but people quite different – only Joshua and Caleb figure in both

The Daughters of Zelophehad

“Some would call working out the details of living in land before you conquer it ‘counting your chickens before they hatch.’ In the book of Numbers, however, this is faith.” Roy Gane, NIV Application Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers

The Daughters of Zelophehad

27 Then the daughters of Zelophehad came forward. Zelophehad was son of Hepher son of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh, of the clans of Manasseh, son of Joseph. The names of his daughters were Mahlah, Noah, Hoglah, Milcah, and Tirzah. 2 They stood before Moses, Eleazar the priest, the leaders, and all the congregation, at the entrance of the tent of meeting, saying, 3 “Our father died in the wilderness; he was not among the congregation of those who gathered themselves together against the Lord in the congregation of Korah but died for his own sin, and he had no sons. 4 Why should the name of our father be taken away from his clan because he had no son? Give to us a possession among our father’s brothers.”

The Daughters of Zelophehad

27:5 Moses brought their case before the Lord. 6 And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 7 “The daughters of Zelophehad are right in what they are saying; you shall indeed let them possess an inheritance among their father’s brothers and pass the inheritance of their father on to them. 8 You shall also speak to the Israelites, saying: If a man dies and has no son, then you shall pass his inheritance on to his daughter. 9 If he has no daughter, then you shall give his inheritance to his brothers. 10 If he has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to his father’s brothers. 11 And if his father has no brothers, then you shall give his inheritance to the nearest kinsman of his clan, and he shall possess it. It shall be for the Israelites a statute and ordinance, as the Lord commanded Moses.”

John Calvin on the Daughters of Zelophehad

“Although (the daughters of Zelophehad) plead before Moses for their own private advantage, still the discussion arose from a good principle; inasmuch as they would not have been so anxious about the succession, if God’s promise had not been just as much a matter of certainty to them as if they were at this moment demanding to be put in possession of it. They had not yet entered the land, nor were their enemies conquered; yet, relying on the testimony of Moses, they prosecute their suit as if the tranquil possession of their rights were to be accorded them that very day. And this must have had the effect of confirming the expectations of the whole people, when Moses consulted God as respecting a matter of importance, and pronounced by revelation that which was just and right; for the discussion, being openly moved before them all, must have given them encouragement, at least to imitate these women.”

Joshua to Succeed Moses

27:12 The Lord said to Moses, “Go up this mountain of the Abarim range, and see the land that I have given to the Israelites. 13 When you have seen it, you also shall be gathered to your people, as your brother Aaron was, 14 because you rebelled against my word in the wilderness of Zin when the congregation quarreled with me. You did not show my holiness before their eyes at the waters.” (These are the waters of Meribath-kadesh in the wilderness of Zin.) 15 Moses spoke to the Lord, saying, 16 “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation 17 who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” 18 So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit, and lay your hand upon him; 19 have him stand before Eleazar the priest and all the congregation and commission him in their sight. 20 You shall give him some of your authority, so that all the congregation of the Israelites may obey. 21 But he shall stand before Eleazar the priest, who shall inquire for him by the decision of the Urim before the Lord; at his word they shall go out, and at his word they shall come in, both he and all the Israelites with him, the whole congregation.” 22 So Moses did as the Lord commanded him. He took Joshua and had him stand before Eleazar the priest and the whole congregation; 23 he laid his hands on him and commissioned him, as the Lord had directed through Moses.

Vengeance on the Midianites (who had seduced the Israelites into worshiping Baal at Peor in ch. 25 – remember the zeal of Phinehas?)

31 The Lord spoke to Moses, saying, 2 “Avenge the Israelites on the Midianites; afterward you shall be gathered to your people.”…   7 They did battle against Midian, as the Lord had commanded Moses, and killed every male. 8 They killed the kings of Midian: Evi, Rekem, Zur, Hur, and Reba, the five kings of Midian, in addition to others who were slain by them, and they also killed Balaam son of Beor with the sword. 9 The Israelites took the women of Midian and their little ones captive, and they plundered all their cattle, their flocks, and all their goods. 10 All their towns where they had settled, and all their encampments, they burned, 11 but they took all the spoil and all the plunder, both people and animals. 12 Then they brought the captives and the plunder and the spoil to Moses, to Eleazar the priest, and to the congregation of the Israelites, at the camp on the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho.

Vengeance on the Midianites (who had seduced the Israelites into worshiping Baal at Peor in ch. 25 – remember the zeal of Phinehas?)

31:13 Moses, Eleazar the priest, and all the leaders of the congregation went to meet them outside the camp. 14 Moses became angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who had come from service in the war. 15 Moses said to them, “Have you allowed all the women to live? 16 These women here, on Balaam’s advice, made the Israelites act treacherously against the Lord in the affair of Peor, so that the plague came among the congregation of the Lord. 17 Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him. 18 But all the young girls who have not known a man by sleeping with him, keep alive for yourselves. 

Divine Justice and Genocide – What do you think?

“Some scholars refuse to accept the possibility that God – at least the God revealed by Jesus – could have ever commanded genocide under any circumstances. So they must posit radical discontinuity between Israel’s God and the God of the New Testament and/or interpret the Old Testament as misrepresenting God’s true character. Those of us who accept the entire Bible as the Word of God have no choice but to admit that God sometimes gives up on groups of people and chooses to destroy them [the flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, the final judgment], and that during a certain phase of history he uniquely delegated a carefully restricted part of his destructive work to his chosen nation of ancient Israel, which he tightly controlled and held accountable under theocratic rule.” Roy Gane, NIV Application Commentary: Leviticus, Numbers

Ch. 32: Reuben and Gad settle in Gilead: Tribes of Reuben and Gad ask Moses to let them settle in Transjordanian territory as they had a lot of cattle and the land east of the Jordan was ideal. Unfortunately, they conclude their request with, “Do not make us cross the Jordan.” Moses “hits the roof” as he thinks they are trying to get out of fighting for Canaan. They clarify by telling Moses they will actually lead the Israelite army into Canaan, leaving their “little ones” back with the livestock.

Ch. 33: Recounting Israel’s Journey: A straight-forward list of Israel’s camping places between Egypt and Plains of Moab. Only part of book explicitly said to have been written by Moses.

Ch. 34: Settlement and Division of the Land: Boundaries of Promised land given here are somewhat different from boundaries of land Israel eventually occupied. Never occupied mountainous area north of Sidon and Damascus but did occupy land east of Jordan River.

Ch. 35: Cities for the Levites and Cities of Refuge: Levites to receive tithes instead of territory but need to live somewhere. Given forty-eight towns distributed throughout territories. Six of these towns designated as places of asylum for anyone who has inadvertently killed someone.

The Return of the Daughters of Zelophehad!

36 The heads of the ancestral houses of the clans of the descendants of Gilead son of Machir son of Manasseh, of the Josephite clans, came forward and spoke in the presence of Moses and the leaders, the heads of the ancestral houses of the Israelites; 2 they said, “The Lord commanded my lord to give the land for inheritance by lot to the Israelites, and my lord was commanded by the Lord to give the inheritance of our brother Zelophehad to his daughters. 3 But if they are married into another Israelite tribe, then their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our ancestors and added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they marry, so it will be taken away from the allotted portion of our inheritance. 4 And when the Jubilee of the Israelites comes, then their inheritance will be added to the inheritance of the tribe into which they have married, and their inheritance will be taken from the inheritance of our ancestral tribe.”

The Return of the Daughters of Zelophehad!

36:5 Then Moses commanded the Israelites according to the word of the Lord, saying, “The descendants of the tribe of Joseph are right in what they are saying. 6 This is what the Lord commands concerning the daughters of Zelophehad, saying: Let them marry whom they think best; only it must be into a clan of their father’s tribe that they are married, 7 so that no inheritance of the Israelites shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for all Israelites shall retain the inheritance of their ancestral tribes. 8 Every daughter who possesses an inheritance in any tribe of the Israelites shall marry one from the clan of her father’s tribe, so that all Israelites may continue to possess their ancestral inheritance. 9 No inheritance shall be transferred from one tribe to another, for each of the tribes of the Israelites shall retain its own inheritance.”

10 The daughters of Zelophehad did as the Lord had commanded Moses.

Book of Numbers - 3

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